Fleabrain Loves Franny

Fleabrain Loves Franny

by Joanne Rocklin
     
 

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This gem of a novel takes place in Pittsburgh in 1952. Franny Katzenback, while recovering from polio, reads and falls in love with the brand-new book Charlotte’s Web. Bored and lonely and yearning for a Charlotte of her own, Franny starts up a correspondence with an eloquent flea named Fleabrain who lives on her dog’s tail. While FrannySee more details below

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Overview


This gem of a novel takes place in Pittsburgh in 1952. Franny Katzenback, while recovering from polio, reads and falls in love with the brand-new book Charlotte’s Web. Bored and lonely and yearning for a Charlotte of her own, Franny starts up a correspondence with an eloquent flea named Fleabrain who lives on her dog’s tail. While Franny struggles with physical therapy and feeling left out of her formerly active neighborhood life, Fleabrain is there to take her on adventures based on his extensive reading. It’s a touching, funny story set in the recent past, told with Rocklin’s signature wit and thoughtfulness.

Awards
Bank Street Children's Books "Best Books of the Year," Fiction Ages 9-12
Sydney Taylor Notable Book for Older Readers

Praise for Fleabrain Loves Franny
"Heartwarming and endlessly funny, Fleabrain Loves Franny will delight readers of all ages. Rocklin’s sharp wit and exuberant writing style are refreshing. This book is not to be missed."
--VOYA

"Franny—a compassionate, thoughtful and sympathetic protagonist—is believably erratic in her emotions and reflections on her illness and its effects on her previously carefree life."
--Publishers Weekly

"Rocklin perfectly captures the era of 1952 and creates a sympathetic, realistic character in Franny, who begins to accept her condition, rejoin her friends and even protest her school’s inaccessibility."
--Kirkus Reviews

"Comedic and philosophical, readers will find multiple levels to enjoy."
--School Library Journal
 

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
06/16/2014
Rocklin pays homage to Charlotte’s Web, explores Kafka’s The Metamorphosis, and mildly evokes Elise Broach’s Masterpiece in this historical fiction/fantasy novel about fifth-grader Franny Katzenback, a victim of the polio epidemic that swept the United States in the early 1950s. Franny—a compassionate, thoughtful and sympathetic protagonist—is believably erratic in her emotions and reflections on her illness and its effects on her previously carefree life. Captivated by E.B. White’s just-published book, Franny longs for a Charlotte in her life. Enter Fleabrain, a well-read flea in love with his own intellect. Rocklin’s (The Five Lives of Our Cat Zook) rich depiction of 1950s Pittsburgh turns into a touching, imaginative whimsy, eventually becoming a full-fledged fantasy that fits somewhat awkwardly into the otherwise solid world she has constructed. Fleabrain and Franny’s fantastic adventures and secret noble deeds distract from Franny’s real story, which is satisfying in itself; she has the inner resources and loving support to come to the inspiring resolution without the flea’s help. An extensive author’s note details the history of polio and the fight to prevent it. Ages 8–12. Agent: Erin Murphy, Erin Murphy Literary Agency. (Aug.)
Booklist Online - Kathleen Isaacs

"Convincingly set in Pittsburgh in the early 1950s, when scientists were working on a polio vaccine, and attitudes toward people with disabilities were quite different from today’s, Rocklin’s story is a conscious homage to Charlotte’s Web, many a voracious reader’s favorite book."
The Horn Book Magazine - Elissa Gershowitz

"With keen insight into human (and insect) relations, Rocklin creates believable, three-dimensional characters—Franny’s goody-two-shoes older sister, for example, and Franny’s old gang of friends, fearful of contagion—that help anchor the off-the-wall-fantastical elements."
The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

"A good choice for kids who like their history with a sprinkling of whimsy."
Tablet Magazine - Marjorie Ingall

"This book is smart, funny, and very odd; it’s a love letter to reading and to the life-saving power of imagination."
Library Media Connection - Teri Hennessy

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
"Strong characterization will make this story a favorite, and the smart, funny writing will attract readers."
Wall Street Journal

"With 'Fleabrain Loves Franny,' Joanne Rocklin has brought into being perhaps the tiniest and most accomplished hero yet: a dashing, erudite, multilingual flea"
VOYA, August 2014 (Vol. 37, No. 3) - Lindsay Grattan
Francine Katzenback, or Franny for short, is the precocious ten-year-old heroine of this story that captures the heart from page one. The story is set in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in 1952. Franny has polio, and during her long hospital stay, in which she is confined to an iron lung, a kindly nun named Sister Ed reads Charlotte’s Web to her, while Franny falls instantly in love with the story and characters. When she is able to go home, she must use a wheelchair as she is unable to walk. Having little chance to go out and play during the summer, Franny creates her own imaginary fun at home when she befriends an intelligent and friendly flea who has attached himself to her dog’s tail. Fleabrain feels he must prove to Franny that he is even more worthy of her admiration than Charlotte the spider. With a penchant for quoting the greats and educating himself from Franny’s parents’ library, Fleabrain helps Franny overcome the loneliness and frustration she feels from suffering with polio. Heartwarming and endlessly funny, Fleabrain Loves Franny will delight readers of all ages. Rocklin’s sharp wit and exuberant writing style are refreshing. She takes the reader into 1950s America, when medical researcher Dr. Jonas Salk developed the first polio vaccine, and readers are offered a rare glimpse of history through a young girl’s eyes, understanding her sorrows, hopes, and dreams, and reveling in her incredible imagination. This book is not to be missed. Reviewer: Lindsay Grattan; Ages 11 to 14.
School Library Journal
08/01/2014
Gr 4–6—Franny has polio in the summer of 1952. Her Jewish family is trying to do everything they can to support her, but in this Pittsburgh neighborhood Franny is relegated to watching her friends do all the things she wants to do. Along comes the flea known as Fleabrain, who lives on the tail of Franny's dog, Alf. Fleabrain is a genius—inspired by the newly published Charlotte's Web by E. B. White (also a favorite book of Franny's), or perhaps Kafka, or even by surviving periodic attacks of flea powder. He is also a voracious reader. An entertaining cast of characters include older sister Min, errant friend Walter Walter, mean-spirited Nurse Olivegarten, and Franny's lovely grandfather, Zadie. Fleabrain is a thinker and a doer, determined to get Franny going. The inclusion of details of daily life during the time period adds to the realism, but the fantasy adventures make clear that imagination is also at work. Comedic and philosophical, readers will find multiple levels to enjoy. The prejudice against persons with disabilities is startling, but as true to the time as collecting conkers and bottle caps. Fleabrain writes some bad poetry, admires James Howell's Paramoigraphyand the proverbs contained in that 17th century work. Rocklin includes an author's note reflecting on polio and the disablity issues, as well as offering a helpful bibliography and discussion guide, which will lend this title to social studies curricula. Useful and fun.—Carol A. Edwards, Denver Public Library, CO
Kirkus Reviews
2014-06-25
An exceptional flea helps a polio-stricken girl in this tale of friendship and acceptance.Ten-year-old Franny Katzenback, stuck in a wheelchair in her bedroom in Squirrel Hill, Pittsburgh, waits for a miracle cure. She endures painful therapy and isolation as fear of contagion keeps friends away. An avid reader, Franny falls in love with the newly published Charlotte's Web. When a flea writes her a note, Franny, lonely and so aware of the power of even the tiniest viruses, writes back. Fleabrain has extraordinary powers. He mounts Franny on a flying horse, and together, they do nocturnal good deeds throughout the city and fly to see the Seven Wonders of the World. Fleabrain, scholarly and erudite, is pompous, too often spouting quotes followed by the name of the quoted, including birth and death dates. He's not a particularly likable flea (no Charlotte he); his pontificating interrupts the story and seems far too sophisticated for the intended audience, as do some of the fantasy adventures, as when Fleabrain is summoned to judgment by hordes of nuclei. On the other hand, Rocklin perfectly captures the era of 1952 and creates a sympathetic, realistic character in Franny, who begins to accept her condition, rejoin her friends and even protest her school's inaccessibility. As a historical novel, this more than succeeds; as a fantasy, it misses the mark. (Fantasy. 10-14)
Children's Literature - Renee Farrah Vess
Part historical fiction and part fantasy, the story of polio-stricken Franny and her friendship with an intellectual flea shows the reader a little of what life was like in 1950s Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, with a Charlotte’s Web twist. During a time when polio was rampant in the United States, and disabilities were not widely accepted, Franny adjusts to her new wheelchair and being shunned from her friends. As she spends more time inside and alone, she befriends a flea, Fleabrain, living on her dog’s tail. Fleabrain urges Franny to go on adventures with him and provides a liberal arts education heavy on philosophy and classical studies— this relationship may only be in her mind, which would make a good discussion point. He also offers Franny companionship during a very lonely time and gives her things to look forward to in order to help her stay positive. This is an excellent book to bring up discussions related to disabilities, playground politics, the importance of vaccines, and the powerful influence of friends, family, and education. The fantastical elements make sure this story never gets too dry or serious, but the young intellectual or future academic will enjoy the musings about Nietzsche, Kafka, and classical music. There is a lot to be discovered and discussed in this book, but in the end it is likeable Franny that will keep you reading with hope that she will be all right. The back of the book also contains an informative author’s note, bibliography, list of resources, and song list. Reviewer: Renee Farrah Vess; Ages 10 to 16.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781419710681
Publisher:
Amulet Books
Publication date:
08/12/2014
Pages:
288
Sales rank:
563,047
Product dimensions:
5.80(w) x 7.70(h) x 1.10(d)
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

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